My earliest gaming memories didn’t involve computers or home consoles but rather the slew of LED and LCD games that preceded them. My brother had a genuine Game & Watch, the Fire one, but I had to make do with Mini-Munchman, a PacMan clone. It was the first of many Grandstand games we owned- Firefox F7 and Scramble being the two best- and to be fair I did completely love it, even if things got a little bit tricky after the left button didn’t work so well after my brother spilt Ribena over it. Imagine playing Pac Man on a tiny handheld, with an iffy refresh rate, and having issues turning in one of the only four directions you can.
Still, it got me hooked. And on to bigger thing! I think, however much fun I had Mini-Munchmanning, or even Firefoxing, the game that really set me on the road to becoming a life long gamer was Galaxy Invaders 1000. For the uninitiated, it’s basically a Space Invaders clone, in a funky yellow case, with three difficulty levels and the instructions on the back.
Controls were simple, a big red button to shoot and a sprung stick to move left or right. Simple but fiendishly addictive.
The question was though, how would the boy take to Galaxy Invaders 1000 as the first stop on our tour of retro gaming. I wanted to be authentic and start as close to the beginning as I could and I still have my ‘Invaders 1000, which is more than I can say for the Ribena soaked Mini-Munchman or for that matter the Firefox F7 (which might be lurking in a loft somewhere).
First impressions weren’t promising:
Sam: Which way up do I hold this?
Me: Joystick and button at the bottom. It’s shaped like a spaceship.
Sam: Is it? It’s very yellow. And the screen is tiny! Does it work?
Me: I think we should try some fresh batteries.
Alex fiddles around in the back compartment for some while.
Me: Bugger, the batteries have leaked. I supposed that’s what happens when you leave a set in there for the best part of 30 years. I’m surprised we haven’t had a big pile of acid on the floor. Batteries were lethal back then.
Sam: Can you get it to work?
Me: I’ll try…
Ten minutes later I’ve got to admit I can’t get it to work. I’ve cleaned the contacts up but the thing isn’t having any truck with my efforts to fire it in to life. Not the most auspicious start to our quest, and more a testimony of how ill-prepared I am than anything else. I silently sent a curse back in time to the ten year old me that boxed Galaxy Invaders 1000 away with batteries still in it.
Sam is surprisingly disappointed though, which bodes well for things going forwards.
Sam: I hope you’re better at sorting this out for next week. I was looking forward to this.
He’s right, I need to up my game substantially. I’ll continue to fiddle with my Galaxy Invader 1000, and it might make areappearnce. Next week we’re moving on to the ZX Spectrum. I’ve still got our 48K+ upstairs (my Dad gave his 16K machine to his secretary when he upgraded) but on the off chance it doesn’t work, I’m going to shove an emulator on my Shield tablet. Wish me luck and we’ll see you agasubstantially.